July 2, 2018 / 4:17 AM / a year ago

China's debt-laden HNA quits $200 million Australian logistics deal

SYDNEY (Reuters) - China’s debt-saddled HNA Group Co Ltd canceled its A$280 million ($207 million) purchase of an Australian logistics business on Monday, with the seller citing cashflow problems at the conglomerate among reasons for the deal’s collapse.

The headquarters of HNA Group is pictured in Haikou, Hainan province, China May 6, 2018. Picture taken May 6, 2018. China Daily via REUTERS

HNA’s unsolicited offer for Automotive Holdings Group Ltd’s (AHG.AX) refrigerated trucking arm landed last November, at the tail end of the firm’s $50 billion two-year acquisition spree and just as concerns about its financing costs began to surface.

The unwinding of the offer, which included HNA assuming an additional A$120 million in debt on top of the purchase price, comes as those worries have intensified and as HNA has been offloading global assets to settle its debts.

“Unfortunately ... HNA has run into liquidity problems which, combined with the delayed FIRB process, left the conditions precedent unable to be satisfied,” Managing Director John McConnell said in a statement, referring to Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board.

Last week, AHG had said it was still in talks with HNA, including discussing an HNA request for funding support, but on Monday McConnell said those talks had ended.

AHG’s shares slumped 10 percent to a 6-year low, while the broader market rose.

“They still need to sell it and there’s no one like the Chinese to pay up for stuff, and it looks like they are off the market,” said Mathan Somasundaram, portfolio strategist at stockbroker Blue Ocean Equities.

Investors had hoped the proceeds would be reinvested in growth or returned to them via dividends or share buyback, he added.

HNA, best known as the owner of Hainan Airlines Co (600221.SS), did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The firm is unloading assets and shareholdings - having agreed to sell $10 billion in real estate this year, along with stakes in Deutsche Bank AG <DBKGn.DE and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc (HLT.N).

Capital control restrictions placed by Chinese regulators in recent years have also been weighing on HNA’s deal activity, and it has faced push-back in several countries due to concerns about its murky ownership structure.

Last year it was blocked from buying a car loan company in New Zealand, in part because the country’s foreign investment regulator was worried about the conglomerate’s financial stability. Regulatory delays also scuppered its plans to buy a stake in U.S. hedge fund Skybridge Capital LLC.

Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board declined to comment.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook in Sydney. Additional reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates

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